Why We Practice

“Do your practice and all is coming.” K Pattabhi Jois is well known for saying this to his Ashtanga students.  And those of us who have ever practiced anything with diligence before understand that these are words of truth.

If you want to master anything, you have to practice, and practice a lot.  Each time you get on your yoga mat, you dedicate yet more time and hard work to whatever pose, flow or breathing technique that you are working on.  Practice is a great gift that we give to ourselves.  It is a space in which you can try new things.  It is a space where you can learn to master something you’ve already been practicing for a while, and it is a space where you can continue to challenge yourself to take it to the next level.  Another beautiful thing about getting on your yoga mat is that it is a safe place in which to explore and discover your strengths and weaknesses, fears and habits.  When you get on your yoga mat you dive in and give yourself an opportunity to grow without having to worry about failure.

Think about other things you practice or have practiced in your life.  Perhaps it is music or a sport like soccer.  Maybe you’ve practiced a new language or how to make leather handbags.  Whatever it is, you didn’t just sit down one day and voilà, you were a pro.  No, it took hours and hours of persistence, along with great focus, to begin to reach your goals.  Seeing results, no matter how big or small, pushes you to want to keep going.  So you continue to practice and after a while, something like magic occurs.  Your practice begins to feel like second nature, and you begin to move with ease from note to note or from one pose to the next.  You don’t get tired after running for the entire soccer game.  You begin dreaming in a foreign language!  Things start to click and become effortless.  This is how you know you are practicing consistently and frequently.

I remember the day I was able to do my first Vrscikasana pose, or Scorpion pose.  A best friend, his dog and I went for a run in Los Angeles.  We came to the park and I remember feeling good, my endorphins pumping, and so I decided to try this pose.  I already could hold my forearm stand (Pincha Mayurasana) pretty well, but I just couldn’t balance long enough while moving my legs over my head.  What’s crazy though, is that on my first attempt that day, I nailed it.  Granted, it wasn’t the full posture as my flexibility still limited me from touching my toes to my head, but it was a good start and the beginning of my journey with this pose.  I still don’t know exactly how I did it, but it was one of the moments that makes you say to yourself, “This is why I practice.  These moments are the reward.” 

That’s the thing with practice, too.  Sometimes when we step away from something we have been working on incessantly for hours or days or weeks, we come back and nail the exact thing we had been hammering on.  That was the case for me in L.A.  I hadn’t practiced yoga for a couple days, and when I came back to it, it just clicked. 

I’m sure you can thing of a time when this happened for you.  It’s these instances in which we reap the benefits of the practice.  It’s what makes all the practice worth it. 

Admittedly, there are times when we don’t want to get on our mat to practice.  It is easy to fall off the horse and make excuses.  But if you choose to commit to your practice, you will be fulfilled over and over again.  If you want to achieve something, it is necessary to practice.  There is no short cut to greatness.  And why would you want to just be great at something?  Practice carries with it great rewards.  It is the journey of your practice that give you the greatest gifts and teaches you the greatest lessons.  You will receive the fruits of your labor when you dedicate yourself to a regular practice. 

Remember, practice is exactly that—practice, which means that your self consciousness needs to stay at home.  Instead, bring a heightened sense of self-awareness to your practice so that you can check in with your body and your mind.  This allows you the opportunity to self-diagnose any ailments you may have and see the progress you are making.  Treat your yoga practice as a mirror so you can reflect on where you came from and where you are going.  And again, practice is practice, not a performance.  Thus, when you get on your mat, check your ego at the door and get out of your own way so that you can receive “all that is coming.”  

Happy practicing!!

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